A Distant Francophile reader got in touch with me recently. She is in the enviable position of heading to Paris during December and January and was looking for some advice on what to wear while experiencing the magic of winter in Paris.
It’s no secret that I’ll happily travel to Paris at any time of the year. However, if I was forced to choose, I’d pick winter as my favourite season to visit Paris. The cooler weather sees you wandering for hours. Tourist queues are shorter. Spending time in atmospheric cafes becomes mandatory. And without their leaves, the trees reveal the beauty of the Parisian architecture.
That said, to enjoy all of this properly, you do need to prepare appropriately for the weather. And that means packing the essentials.
Winter in Paris – The Essentials
A Sensational Coat – Or Two
Given your outerwear is on show for most of the time in cold weather, a stylish coat is an absolute must. If your itinerary requires a smart casual look, then a rain resistant, packable down parka will do the trick, However if you are considering doing anything a little more dressy, you might also want to pack a wool option.
For either variation, opt for longer line coats for sufficient warmth. And make sure that your coat is both comfortable and easy to get in and out of. (Two way zips can be helpful here.) Consider the garments you will be wearing under your coat when purchasing – make sure you have space around the arms and waist in particular. But don’t go too big, just in case your new coat swamps you. Tailored options always look smart.
And don’t be afraid of a little colour in your coat. While I always recommend packing neutrals in winter to save space and to enable lots of mixing and matching, a statement coat can really bring life to your travel wardrobe.
For Australian readers, I always recommend purchasing your coat on-line from either the United States or United Kingdom. You will discover a huge range of fabulous coats that are made for much cooler climates than ours. And you’ll also find that the prices are quite reasonable compared to what you often see in Australian stores.
Dark Coloured Jeans Or Pants
It’s entirely conceivable that you will travel with a dress or a skirt however it’s an absolute given that pants of some description will find their way into your baggage. Both black and dark blue are good choices and can be dressed up or down, and pair well with a multitude of shirts, tops and sweaters. Depending on your preferences, leather could be a good option here.
A Blazer That Fits Comfortably Under Your Coat
Blazers are a staple in Paris and I recommend you pack at least one for days when sweaters won’t cut it. However, it’s not always easy to wear a coat over a blazer. Collars often end up clashing, and sleeves are regularly uncomfortable. It’s for this reason that I suggest packing collarless blazers or jackets with fitted sleeves
Hand-washable, Quick Drying Tops And Sweaters
To save space in your luggage, tops and sweaters that can hand washed and hung to dry regardless of your accommodation are invaluable when travelling in the winter. Make sure however that the pieces you choose are relatively quick drying. There is nothing worse than waiting forever for your favourite piece to transition from damp to dry.
Your Favourite Boots
Travel with boots that not only look good but are extremely comfortable and it could be they end up being the only shoes you wear. My low heeled, knee high black boots have made nearly as many winter trips to Paris as I have. Great for day and night, they are classy enough to take me out to dinner and comfy enough to walk around in all day. I wear mine onto the plane to ensure I have appropriate footwear when I land and to save space in my checked luggage.
And while you will never go wrong with black, tan or cognac boots are also worthy of consideration, particularly if you’ve chosen to build your colour scheme around navy or another variety of blue.
High Quality Base Layers, In Case You Strike Really Cold Weather
Whether made from natural or man-made fibres, these light weight under garments are easy to pack and warm to wear. I always pack both a short and long sleeve vest as they can be worn under both shirts and sweaters. If I do happen to be packing a skirt, I’ll also throw in a pair of leggings or tights (they work under my jeans as well). A good range of base layers can be found at outdoor and department stores.
Fine Gauge Woollen Scarves
Yes, scarves are a Parisian essential at any time of year, but they come into their own during winter. While many of us are drawn to chunky scarves, lightweight versions are easier to pack. If you pack two scarves of complementary colours, you can tie them together to give you a unique and ‘chunkier’ look without travelling with the additional bulk. My favourite combination at the moment is a grey wool/cashmere blend scarf teamed with a grey ocelot print chiffon scarf. This pairing delivers both softness and warmth without any weight. I’ve included lots of tips on tying scarves in this piece.
A Long Wrap That Can Double As An Additional Scarf
Wraps are extremely versatile pieces to travel with. They add stylish warmth if you find yourself cool in restaurants, cafés and the like. And they can also act as a blanket on planes and trains, which are often chilly. You can find many attractive options at every price point.
Some of the best travel advice I’ve ever received was to invest in decent socks. It seems these items of clothing are generally under-rated, yet they can make a massive difference to your comfort levels, regardless of how much walking you plan to do. Look for socks with as few seams as possible, to cut down irritation points. And try to purchase socks with the highest wool content possible for both warmth and breathability. If you would like to clothe your feet in a touch of luxury, you might consider splurging on a pair of cashmere socks.
A Hat That Suits Your Face Shape
Yes, I promise there is hat out there for you whether that be a felt Panama or Bowler hat or a woollen beanie. Hats obviously provide warmth and keep the rain off to some extent, but they also add another element to your outfits. You see so many great hats in Paris – I actually bought my favourite one there as we don’t have much need for winter hats in Australia. It simply doesn’t get cold enough. Personally, I’d avoid berets (I’m just not a fan).
Another accessory you might like to pick up once you’ve landed is an umbrella. Paris has a number of specialist umbrella stockists worth visiting if the weather dictates the need for a brolly and your accommodation can’t provide.
I’ve shared this Vicki Archer tip previously and I think it is worth mentioning again. Travelling with two handbags – perhaps a tote and a smaller cross body bag – allows you flexibility. Use the tote for days when you are on the move and need to have everything with you and switch to the smaller bag when you are wandering and can travel light. If your cross-body bag can do double duty as clutch, so much the better, particularly if you are planning for some special evenings out.
One More Thing
If you are also lucky enough to be travelling to Paris during winter, you might like to download a copy of my specially tailored packing list.
This printable PDF guide not only helps you keep track of the stylish clothes you’ll need during your winter travels but captures everything else you’ll want to take with you – both in your checked luggage and in your carry-on.
There’s even room for you to add your own essential items.
It’s perfect for ensuring you don’t forget to pack a thing.
Please click here to immediately download your free guide to packing for winter in Paris.
That’s my list and now it’s over to you, my friends. I’d so grateful if you could help out a fellow traveller and share your winter in Paris essentials in the comments section below.
And until next time – au revoir.